Home Health & Hospice

Caring for yourself: Safe patient handling

Homecare Insider, April 22, 2013

Each year, thousands of nurses, aides, and other healthcare workers are injured from manually lifting patients. It is important to understand the risks and how to prevent these injuries in your agency.

Musculoskeletal disorders resulting from work-related injuries include back strains and spinal damage. According to Coalition for Healthcare Worker and Patient Safety (CHAPS), the rate of these disorders in healthcare workers exceeds that of construction, mining, and factory workers, and all healthcare environments, including home health care, are affected. The primary culprit is repeated manual lifting, transferring, and repositioning of patients. Injuries associated with manual patient handling cause healthcare workers chronic pain and suffering, shortened careers, and loss of livelihood. They also have a negative impact on patient safety by risking falls during transfer, skin tears and bruising or skin damage, increased pain and discomfort, and loss of dignity and privacy. These injuries are extremely costly for healthcare organizations with back injuries alone, and nursing personnel have the highest rate of workers’ compensation claims of any occupation.

Safe handling programs to reduce injuries are effective and include positive patient outcomes such as decreased combativeness, reduced shearing, reduction in falls, increased physical functioning, protection of dignity, and increased comfort and security. Safe patient handling solutions include hover lifts, slings, and transfer aids. All staff should be educated on keeping patients and themselves safe.

These programs prove cost-effective in that they decrease injury rates, lost workdays, and workers' compensation costs and insurance premiums. However, the most important thing to remember is that patient safety cannot be adequate if employee safety isn't up to snuff. 

Editor’s note: This brief is an excerpt from our flagship newsletter Homecare Direction. Learn more about this educational resource today!